Inspired by this recipe
- 1 whole turkey
- 4 quarts cold water, divided
- 1 cup kosher salt, or 3/4 cup table salt
- Aromatics (bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves, juniper berries, allspice berries, orange peels, lemon peels, etc)
- Unwrap your turkey and remove the giblets, then transfer it to a 12+ quart stockpot. Add any aromatics you'd like to use.
- Heat 1 quart of water in the microwave until warmed — it doesn't need to come to a boil, just be warm enough to dissolve the salt. Add the salt and stir until the salt is dissolved. Let the liquid cool slightly; it's fine if it's still a touch warm.
- Pour the salt water over the turkey.
- Make sure the turkey is completely submerged. If needed, prepare more brine solution at a ratio of 1/4 cup salt per quart of water to completely submerge the turkey.
- If the turkey floats, weigh it down with a dinner plate. Cover and place it in the refrigerator.
- Brine the turkey in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Clean your sink thoroughly after doing this step to avoid cross-contamination.
- If you have time, let the turkey air-dry overnight in the refrigerator. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent cross contamination. This drying step will give your turkey crispier skin.
- Set the turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan and let it sit while the oven preheats. This takes the chill off the meat, which helps the meat cook faster and more evenly. It also gives the skin time to dry out, which promotes browning and crisping. (Note: Your turkey will likely still feel cool to the touch after sitting at room temperature — that's fine and you can continue on with roasting.)
- Position an oven rack in the bottom third of your oven, remove any racks above it, and heat the oven to 450°F. Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat to 350°F. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13 minutes per pound. However, some factors like brining the bird, cooking with an empty (un-stuffed) cavity, and leaving the legs un-trussed will contribute to much faster cooking. Plan on the 13-minute-per-pound rule, but start checking the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the scheduled cooking time to gauge how fast it's cooking. As the turkey cooks, if the breast starts getting too browned, shield it with aluminum foil.
- Every 45 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven, close the oven door (don't let that heat out!), and baste the turkey all over. To baste, tilt the pan if needed and use a turkey baster or spoon to scoop up the pan liquids and drizzle them on top of the turkey. Basting with pan juices cools the surface of the turkey and slows down cooking, which in turn keeps the breast meat cooking at close to the same rate as the legs and thighs. In the last 45 minutes or so of cooking, you can also baste the turkey with melted butter or oil. This helps crisp up the skin and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown. Begin checking the turkey's temperature about halfway through the estimated cooking time. Check the temperature in three places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh. In every case, the meat should be at least 165°F when the turkey has finished cooking. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, when it has reached a consistent temperature of 165°F. Then, lift the whole turkey (still on the rack) and transfer it to a clean cutting board. Tent the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives time for the meat to firm up and the juices to be re-absorbed into the muscle tissue, making the turkey easier to slice and taste juicier.
How big of a turkey? This method is best for a 12 to 16 pound bird. (Buy 1 to 1 1/2 pounds turkey for each guest.)
How long to cook the turkey? 13 minutes of cooking time for each pound of turkey if roasting empty and 15 minutes per pound if stuffed.
What temperature to cook the turkey? Preheat the oven to 450°F then drop the temperature to 350°F after putting the turkey into the oven.
What temperature should the turkey be? The turkey is done when it registers a minimum of 165° in the thickest part of the thigh.
How long to rest the turkey? Rest the turkey for at least 15 minutes before carving.